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Out Of Bounds - Sampras

Out of Bounds
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"We all choke"
Pete Sampras' humility has lessons beyond sports.

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By Gary Kamiya

July 13, 2000 | After his record-setting victory over Patrick Rafter at Wimbledon on Sunday, Pete Sampras said, "We all choke."

Sampras was referring to the match's two decisive tiebreakers -- the first of which he lost after double-faulting twice, the second of which he won after Rafter made unforced errors. "This game is a matter of nerves," he said. "We were both feeling it. I lost my nerve in the first set. He lost his nerve 4-1 in the second breaker."

"We all choke"? "I lost my nerve"?

Was this a jock speaking in America in the year 2000?

These days, you're a lot more likely to see athletes taunting their opponents with the "choke" sign than admitting that they themselves are capable of choking. Mike Tyson, who said of Lennox Lewis, "I'm going to rip out his heart and feed it to him," modestly adding, "I want your heart. I want to eat your children," is an extreme case, but increasing numbers of athletes seem to favor public personas that have been modeled on Donald Trump, or maybe Werner Erhard. And why not? Projecting a general aura of macho invulnerability goes over big in the corporate world -- why shouldn't jocks follow suit?

In a hyperbolic, media-saturated age, when a relief pitcher's failure to throw a strike instantly becomes a collapse rivaling Satan's fall through outer darkness, showing weakness, or even admitting to it, is getting harder and harder for athletes to do. This is understandable, to a degree. Athletic achievement requires a spectacular degree of self-confidence. Great athletes can't allow even the possibility of failure to creep into their minds: Hamlet probably wouldn't have been any more successful as a quarterback than he was as a fencer. Moreover, the simple fact is that great athletes fail less than the rest of us: That's why they're great. Self-confidence, natural talent and achievement reinforce one another.

And, of course, that's one of the reasons we're drawn to sports: to watch people who have achieved a rare mastery of their craft and themselves. If we knew that every time Sampras tossed up the ball to serve, his concentration was going to waver, we wouldn't turn on the TV. We don't want to see athletes second-guessing themselves, dithering and suffering fits of the vapors: We get that at home. We need the universe of sports to be a parallel one, brighter and clearer than ours, filled with waving pennants instead of half-truths and smudged bus schedules, inhabited by people who have the sharp outlines and implacable assurance of characters in novels.

But what makes that universe truly compelling is that it really isn't different from ours at all. Athletes do what they do better than nonathletes can, but they're still human beings. They lose their nerve. They lose concentration. They succumb to fear.

They choke.

By admitting this in such a matter-of-fact way, on the day that he established his credentials as one of the great champions, Sampras restored a measure of dignity, of humanity, to the increasingly plastic, victory-obsessed world of sports. In the end, Sampras was saying, victory cannot even be understood apart from defeat. It isn't that some of us choke: We all choke. It's a democracy of failure: Some of us may be riding in first class, but we're all bozos on this bus.

And the very fact that even the greatest athletes choke means that their achievements, far from diminishing our less spotlighted lives, illuminate the million human victories that go unnoticed every day. Just as it takes their deeds out of the realm of empty myth, it moves our own everyday feats, if we look at them the right way, onto a green field of the mind, a field that never fades.

So Sampras' 130-mile-an-hour serve kicking up chalk lights up the schoolteacher who stays after work to help a struggling student learn how to read. Joe Montana's off-leg, hand-in-his-face throw to that 2-foot square where only Dwight Clark could snatch the ball out of the air illuminates a mother stumbling out of bed at 4 a.m. to hand a crying child a teddy bear. Michael Jordan's soaring last-second shot spotlights the kid sax player who plays that Bird phrase over and over until he nails it.

"We all choke," Sampras said. Yes, we do -- and if we didn't, there would be no victories, or defeats, at all.

salon.com | July 13, 2000
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Like the good old days

IF EVER there were any doubts about Pete Sampras' right to call himself the greatest, he crushed them in emphatic style on Sunday with his epic four-set win over Andre Agassi for a fifth US Open title.

A day earlier, fellow American Serena Williams won a third straight Grand Slam title at the US Open without dropping a set.

Facing his long-time rival, the only man to have challenged his dominance in the 1990s, Sampras somehow summoned a performance which overshadowed all his previous 13 Grand Slam triumphs.

For two-and-a-half sets, a sentimental New York crowd was treated to the kind of breathtaking serve-volleying which had seen Sampras climb to the pinnacle of world tennis in 1993 and stay there for six years.

Sampras' serve, once one of the most feared in tennis, was suddenly impregnable even to one of the game's greatest returners. And once that was firing, the rest of Sampras' game clicked seamlessly back into place.

Such was the devastation wreaked by Sampras that the crowd, desperate for more entertainment, threw their weight behind Agassi. It was just like the good old days when tennis crowds became bored of Sampras' procession of titles and would always support his opponent, more out of sympathy than hope.

Only in the last two years has Sampras found himself back in favour during a barren spell which has seen him slump to a series of new and shocking lows.

The most painful came at Wimbledon this year where in the second round he was beaten by 'lucky loser' George Bastl, a player who can most favourably be described as a journeyman.

A shell-shocked Sampras afterwards spoke of his belief that he was merely short on confidence and that he would be back for another shot at the title he had won a record seven times.

But to the majority of observers, it was the forlorn cry of a proud champion who would not accept the passing of time. Having suffered moral-crushing defeats to 20-year- old opponents, Marat Safin and Lleyton Hewitt, in the previous two US Open finals, many might have taken the hint that their time was up.

After two run-of- the-mill matches at this year's US Open, he faced an in-form and fired- up Greg Rusedski in the third round. Driven on by a wildly partisan crowd, Sampras scraped a five-set win which gave no indication of the fireworks he was about to produce.

Rusedski afterwards became the first of Sampras' contemporaries to say that he was no longer the player he once was, adding that he was a "a step-and-a- half slower" getting to the net.

But Sampras' performances at Flushing Meadows from the fourth round onwards told a different story.

His confidence flooding back, Sampras returned to the player of old, winning points with a swinging serve and crisp volley and demoralising opponents with his ability to produce an ace at the scent of danger.

Sampras will not be drawn on his future, but after leaving those who pushed for his retirement red-faced with the emphatic nature of his victory, he has ensured that the decision will be left entirely in the hands of the legend himself.

No-one is asking when Serena will retire but whether she can be stopped. Such was her domination over the two weeks that no-one even managed to take her to a tie- break.

In the space of a year there has been a major shift in power at the top of women's tennis. Only 12 months ago it was Venus who cemented her place at the top of the rankings with a comprehensive win over her sister at Flushing Meadows.

It seemed that the elder sibling had asserted her authority over the younger. But this year has seen the Williams' story work out as father Richard had predicted -- with Serena fulfilling her promise in dramatic style.

After the usual slow start to the year at the Australian Open -- the one Grand Slam title to have eluded both sisters so far -- Serena overcame an ankle injury to win in Scottsdale in February.

The floodgates really opened the following month in Miami when she beat Venus for the first time in three years, and only the second time in her career.

Team Williams finally made the breakthrough on clay when Serena won the Italian Open in May, and followed up by beating her sister in the final of the French Open.

It was the same story at Wimbledon, and Saturday's victory took Serena's record for the year to 44 wins and four losses, with five titles to her name in a relatively light schedule.

For all his eccentricities and outspoken comments, Richard Williams has proved to be a master at charting his daughters' careers. Despite the hype surrounding both Venus and Serena from a young age, they have both been brought through slowly, almost held back for their own good.

They now know how to peak at exactly the right time -- in the major championships.

Serena has suffered surprise defeats this year to Justine Henin, Chanda Rubin and Meghann Saughnessy, but all in tour events. When it came to the Grand Slams she was ready. Physically, no other player on the tour can match her -- including Venus -- and that is why she looks set to dominate for years to come.

There are plenty of new young stars on the way up, notably from Russia, but none look to have anything approaching Serena's power. Her huge serve is matched by unrivalled weight of shot off the ground and on return, as she demonstrated in the US Open final.

"I think Serena's level is definitely more up than last year," said Venus. "I think mentally I'm not there as much."

And if Venus feels unable to compete with Serena, it holds out little hope for the rest.

© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly.
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Re: Out Of Bounds - Sampras

Gavaskar Quotes...............

Pete Sampras, Tiger Woods, Sachin Tendulkar are three sportspersons who are colossuses in their respective sport, and wonderful role models, too. You won't find them creating a scene on or off the courts, courses or fields.
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Re: Out Of Bounds - Sampras

One of game's best carried himself like a player should

Westchester Journal News

NEW YORK – Strangers are forever approaching him in airports, in hotel lobbies, on golf courses, and telling him what a United States Open crowd never could. They do not thank Pete Sampras for the memories that inspired an emotional ceremony last night, a ceremony that broke down Sampras the way no tennis player could.

They point to their sons and daughters and thank the greatest tennis player of all time for showing them that sport isn't the exclusive domain of divas, louts and clowns.

"The biggest compliment I could ever receive," Sampras said by phone in the hours before he wept and wept as the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd stood and roared, this as his 9-month-old son Christian held a tennis ball and bounced in his mother's arms.

"It means more now that I'm a father, because you want so much for your child. For parents to come up to me all the time and say, 'You've been a good representative for my kids,' and to feel like you've made a difference with people, I think that's worth the few extra Sports Illustrated covers I might've gotten had I acted a different way."

The Jeremy Shockey and Terrell Owens way. The John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors way.

"The older crowd," Sampras said, "people in their 40s and 50s, they tell me, 'Thank you for the way you handled yourself compared to the guys who came before you.'

"Throwing a racket never even crossed my mind. It's childish to me, and it would be embarrassing to myself and my family. I wouldn't sell out as a person, wouldn't change for sponsors or the money. In this day and age, people want more than tennis; they want drama. I always felt it was just about winning. I always let my racket do the talking."

Yes, Pete Sampras spoke softly and carried the biggest stick, a stick he officially put to bed in a news conference that left him teary-eyed and choked up when he said goodbye and talked about his mother and father, Georgia and Sam, who raised a gentleman and arrived for his retirement ceremony only after remaining grounded and invisible in a sport overrun by stage parents from hell.

Pete cried, we lost. Thank heavens for that '92 Open loss to Stefan Edberg, the one Sampras said "made me hate to lose" and left him "obsessed with being the best." Virtue would rise out of the rubble. After all the noise made by the village idiots who preceded him, Sampras slid Connors and McEnroe into his pocket as easily as he would a second-service ball.

Sampras won 14 majors. You'd have to add up the totals of Connors (eight) and McEnroe (seven) to find a champion with a bigger trophy case.

"If boring is when you dominate," Sampras said, "then yes, I was boring. When you make it look easy it's not fully appreciated."

On his way out the Open door and toward a life of recreational golf, leisurely travel and serious fatherhood, Sampras was allowed this first and final appreciation of himself. He's won as many big ones as Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods combined, and yet he could still go unrecognized by the same shoppers in a mall who would do cartwheels over a fleeting glimpse of Jason Sehorn.

"I was flying from L.A. to Tampa once and sitting next to Barry Bonds," Sampras said. "I was 22 or 23, he had no idea who I was, and his friend behind us wanted to sit next to him. Barry said, 'Well, if this guy gets up you can sit there.' So I got up. I've seen Barry since and he couldn't be nicer."

Sampras had won three or four majors before that flight. Three or four more than Barry Bonds.

Only when he got older, slower and more vulnerable did Sampras become the people's choice. At last, the Open opened its heart to him when Sampras ended a 26-month drought and silenced a deafening chorus of critics begging him to retire, begging him to quit volleying his legacy into the net.

Those two weeks amounted to one open window on a champion's soul. Sampras was angered when he beat Albert Portas in the first round and received word that his first teacher, Pete Fischer, called the effort "atrocious." He was angered by the inane, Pete-is-washed-up ramblings of Greg Rusedski, yesterday's fitting first-round loser. Sampras was unimpressed by the muscle-beach attire of Tommy Haas, this before blowing away the It Boy, Andy Roddick, and ultimately facing the only opponent who could make the final right.

As a teen-ager, Sampras beat Andre Agassi at the Open for his first major title. As a 31-year-old man with a senior citizen's hobble, thinning hair and a killer cold sore, Sampras needed his image-is-everything antagonist to punctuate his last great run.

"I never felt so vindicated in my life," Sampras said after becoming the oldest Open champ in 32 years, after high-fiving all of New York on his rush into the stands to hug his pregnant, movie-star wife, Bridgette Wilson, who was given the Yoko Ono treatment across her husband's Grand Slam demise.

That vindication carried Sampras past Christian's birth and into a Christmastime phone call he used to tell a reporter he'd just watched a tape of his Roddick romp and was fired up to go for No. 15. "I didn't retire," he said, "because I still believe I can win majors."

Soon enough, that desire went out like a candle in the wind. Sampras was preparing for Wimbledon at his Los Angeles home, hitting with his coach, Paul Annacone, when the moment knocked him cold.

"It was my second or third practice," Sampras said, "and I realized I had nothing left to prove to myself. For the first time I felt content. A half-hour into that practice, I said, 'Paul, let's have a seat. We need to talk.' "

His racket was done talking. The champion who grew up idolizing Rod Laver, who ended up breaking Roy Emerson's record with Laver's grace and Ashe's dignity, wouldn't make it to Wimbledon or old Locker No. 163 at the Open, a locker that was as empty yesterday as the sport itself.

"I'm 100 percent done," Sampras said.

Say goodbye to decency, maturity and class. Send in the divas, louts and clowns.

• • •

You can e-mail Ian O'Connor at ioconnor@thejournalnews.com.
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Re: Out Of Bounds - Sampras

September 7th, 2002
US Open: Sampras and Agassi!

Well, I look forward to the US Open finals tomorrow, as it’s Sampras vs Agassi (just like old times!).

Sampras’ revival at this tournament is the stuff of legends. Not only has he gone 33 events without a win after taking his record-breaking 13th Slam title at the 2000 Wimbledon, but he was a virtual non-factor all summer. But after reuniting with his long-time coach, Paul Annacone, and discussing his state of mind with his now pregnant wife, actress Brigitte Wilson, Sampras was able to pick himself off the canvas. […]
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It's 95% over for Sampras
(Manila Time) | Jun. 23, 2003
Agence France-Presse

LONDON -- Seven-time Wimbledon champion Pete Sampras has admitted that he is now "95 percent" certain he has played his last professional match.

Sampras, who lifted the title at the All England Club from 1993 to 95 and 1997 to 2000, told the Sunday Times the time had come to leave the stage to younger stars after making it a record 14 Grand Slam titles at last year's US Open.

"It's time for other guys to hold up the trophies. I'm 95 percent sure I'm stopping," said Sampras, who turns 32 on August 12 and who held the year-end top ranking every season between 1993 and 1998 -- a record streak of six years.

"I'd been putting off the decision and putting off the decision in the hope that something would come back."

But after some practice sessions with coach Paul Annacone the old warrior said he knew his time was up.

"On the third day I called over to Paul and said 'let's sit down for a second.' He knew what was coming.

"I said 'this is real. I can't do it.' I just knew my heart wasn't in it. It wasn't my body that felt bad. It was just getting up and going to practice."

When Sampras beat old rival Andre Agassi at last year's US Open it was his first title success since his record-breaking achievement of a seventh Wimbledon crown in 2000, snapping a drought of 33 events.

The Washington-born star has won more than 43 million dollars and 64 singles titles in his career since turning professional in 1988.

He finished last season ranked 13, his first finish out of the world top 10 since 1989.

At Wimbledon, Sampras boasts a win-loss career record of 63-7.

Last year he lost to unheralded George Bastl of Switzerland in the second round, a defeat which will now prove to be his swansong showing at the tournament where he proved unbeatable between 1993 and 2000 -- save for a 1996 quarterfinal reverse to Dutchman Richard Krajicek.
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August 26, 2003
The Best Ever?
Sampras retires:

They tried to make it as big as they could at the U.S. Open tonight, with a cascade of flags and a host of highlights and a Broadway singer serenading him at mid-court. They tried to give Pete Sampras a send-off in proper proportion to his mammoth career, but that was an impossible mission, and besides, all the pomp and circumstance in the world was no match for the simple act of gratitude performed by the fans at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
One by one, they rose to clap on his behalf, the applause swelling to such a crescendo Sampras, 32, was nearly swept off the court. A minute into the standing ovation, he started to quietly weep. Two minutes in, he broke down completely, using one hand to cover his face and the other to acknowledge the crowd.

Quiet, unassuming, professional, and one of the best ever- he never got the respect he deserved, IMHO.

Filed under Sports by John Cole


When it comes to class and professionalism, nothing can top Sampras. However, in terms of greatest ever, I'd have to go with Rod Laver, who (like Ted Williams) won 11 Grand Slam titles (including 2 Grand Slams) despite missing out on 5 years of opens in the prime of his career.


Posted by: Norbizness on August 26, 2003

It's an enduring irony that flamboyant tennis players who had a lot less to offer than Pete Sampras have always gotten louder accolades and more love -- but then, the same could be said of Bjorn Borg.

Posted by: Francis W. Porretto on August 26, 2003

All that and he is able to say that he dumped Kimberly Williams.

Posted by: Ricky on August 26, 2003

Pete was THE best, period IMO. 14 titles, a record six years at No. 1. And he did it with consistency and hard work and without whining.

I think the no-whining part kept him from the spotlight, look at McnRoe for chrissakes.


Posted by: Tman on August 26, 2003

Sampras is the Stan Musial of tennis--arguably the greatest player of his generation (probably more than arguably in the case of Sampras), but overshadowed by more spectacular and/or colorful talents. Fifty years from now, tennis fans will still be looking at Sampras' records the way that a baseball fan looks at Musial's numbers, and they will wonder why there are so many more stories about Agassi, Connors, and McEnroe.

Posted by: M. Scott Eiland on August 26, 2003

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Re: Out Of Bounds - Sampras

Tennis legends close out at open
By Nick Chin
Published: Monday, September 8, 2003

The main story at this year's U.S. Open tennis tournament was the retirement of Pete Sampras. But he was not the only one to retire from the sport. Jeff Tarango and Michael Chang joined him in finishing their careers at the tournament.

Tarango's career was not marked by winning but by his antics on the court. He will mostly be remembered for leaving a match at the 1995 Wimbledon where he got in the umpire's face because he believed the match was not called fairly. After the match Tarango's wife even got involved, slapping the umpire's face. The following year he was banned from Wimbledon.

Tarango was considered by many to be "a poor man's John McEnroe." Like McEnroe, Tarango had a fierce temper, but was unable to win any major tournament only to be ranked at the No. 42 spot.

Chang had an impact not only on but also off the court. Chang was the youngest Grand Slam Champion, winning the French Open at the age of 17. His highest ranking was No. 2 after losing to Pete Sampras in the 1996 U.S. Open final.

However, aging finally caught up to Chang. Unable to hustle to the ball as he used to, he left the game happy.

Off the court Chang changed the image of Asian Americans in the sporting world. Asian Americans were largely unrecognized until Chang jumped onto the tennis scene. He brought his fellow Asian Americans into mainstream sports for the first time. Without him who knows where Michelle Kwan, Kristi Yamaguchi and Amy Chow would be. He was an inspiration to Asian Americans around the U.S.

Sampras ended his career on top, reaching the No. 1 spot several times. In his last tournament he defeated Andre Agassi in the finals of the 2002 U.S. Open, winning 14 Grand Slam titles, the most in the history of tennis.

Sampras let his career speak for itself, leaving the game when he wanted to and on top.

Chang suffered through this final year of his career and it was painful to watch after his glory years. Sampras did it right and stopped playing when he made history.

The careers of Tarango, Chang and Sampras have been different. Tarango is known as more of an embarrassment to the tennis world than a great tennis player. Chang had success back in the day, but finished his career on a down slope. And Sampras will always be America's sweetheart.

Chang and Sampras's careers intersected and Sampras was the man that held Chang from ever reaching the No. 1 ranking. Sampras left on top, beating his main rival Agassi, whom he has faced numerous times in his career.

Today Agassi is still competing at a high level and is the favorite to win. He will be the mentor for the future of U.S. Tennis in James Blake and Andy Roddick.

Blake had a great tournament and reached the third round before losing to second-seeded Roger Federer. Roddick won the U.S. Open title decisively, defeating Federer, 6-3, 7-6, 6-3.

Though the tennis world lost two greats in Chang and Sampras, and a fireball in Tarango, the future looks bright with many young players showing excellent talent.
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Re: Out Of Bounds - Sampras

Sampras anunciará el lunes su adiós a la competición


NUEVA YORK (EEUU).- El estadounidense Pete Sampras, ganador de 14 títulos de Grand Slam, anunciará oficialmente su retirada de la competición en el transcurso de una ceremonia-homenaje que se celebrará en Nueva York el próximo lunes, día en el que dará comienzo el Abierto de Estados Unidos.

El pasado Abierto de Estados Unidos supuso el último capítulo en la carrera del tenista de Washington, considerado por muchos como el mejor tenista de todos los tiempos, después de alzarse con la victoria y romper una sequía de más de dos años tras conquistar Wimbledon, su torneo favorito, en 2000.
Sampras se impuso en la final, que bien podía haberse registrado la década anterior y que parecía prolongarse en el tiempo, a su compatriota Andre Agassi y amplió su lista de torneos de 'Grand Slam' hasta catorce. El tenista de Washington, que ya había superado en 2000 con su victoria en Wimbledon la marca del australiano Roy Emerson en el palmarés de torneos del 'Grand Slam', amplió un poco más su 'reinado' y consiguió una marca difícilmente superable en un futuro, pero que cuenta con el pero de no haberse adjudicado nunca Roland Garros.


El estadounidense comenzó su peregrinaje en las citas de 'Grand Slam' en 1990, cuando dejó patente su calidad después de deshacerse de leyendas como Lendl, McEnroe o Agassi, con lo que se convertía en el tenista más joven en hacerse con el título, con 19 años y 28 días. A partir de ese momento comenzó una cadena de éxitos con 64 títulos individuales, que le permitió apuntarse al menos un torneo por temporada, una marca que se rompió en 2001, pero que retomó el año pasado con su victoria en las pistas de Flushing Meadows.

Las sucesivas victorias llevaron a Sampras a lo más alto en la clasificación de la ATP, que encabezó durante 267 semanas consecutivas, desde 1993 a 1998, lo que le permitió ser el primer tenista en terminar durante seis temporadas consecutivas como número uno mundial. Sampras, que se ha mantenido dentro del 'top-ten' del ránking mundial en las últimas doce temporadas, ha mantenido un idilio especial con Wimbledon, torneo en el que venció en siete de sus diez últimas apariciones.

La victoria en la cita londinense en 2000 supuso que el estadounidense igualara con Bjon Borg como los dos únicos tenistas que han sumado títulos en torneos de 'Grand Slam' durante ocho temporadas consecutivas. Los detractores de Sampras siempre le achacarán el no haber mostrado su mejor imagen en la arcilla roja, donde su impaciencia siempre le impidió conseguir cotas superiores. De hecho, su mejor resultado fue el de jugar las semifinales en 1996.
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Re: Out Of Bounds - Sampras

Needling the Champs

Both Pete Sampras and Venus Williams recently used acupuncture to help heal tennis injuries

Tim Wendel

Tennis stars Pete Sampras and Venus Williams entered this year's U.S. Open as the favorites. Both were coming off impressive victories seven weeks earlier at Wimbledon. But the reigning kings and queens of the hardcourt share another similarity: acupuncture.

Of the two, Sampras has enjoyed the greatest success with the ancient Chinese procedure. In the early rounds of Wimbledon, his chances of winning for a record seventh time appeared nil. He seemed disheartened, and acute tendinitis in his left shin curtailed his mobility on the court. But halfway through Wimbledon, Sampras came alive, advancing to the final, where he defeated Aussie Patrick Rafter.

In the men's dressing room, there was grumbling about Sampras faking it. The shin injury wasn't as serious as he had let on. Even though most had heard about him visiting a London acupuncturist for the shin, few put much faith in such treatment.

In winning Wimbledon, Sampras exhibited newfound energy--often a benefit of those going under the needle.

Heading into the U.S. Open in New York, Sampras had stopped trying to explain his sudden turnabout.

"I'm tired of talking about the injury," he says. "A lot of players think whatever they think. You can just tell. But I've always prided myself on getting through."

Left unsaid was that the top star in men's tennis may have discovered a new way of "getting through" with acupuncture. In winning Wimbledon, Sampras exhibited newfound energy--often a benefit of those going under the needle.

Acupuncture practitioners employ needles with rounded tips that slip a quarter of an inch into the skin. A therapist then gently twists or twirls them, or simply leaves the needles in for up to 10 minutes. Some acupuncturists also stimulate the body's healing powers with a weak electrical current or with heat, burning herbs such as mugwort.

A University of Maryland study estimates that 1 million Americans use acupuncture to treat aches and pains. The U.S. National Institutes of Health states that the treatment is helpful for headaches, low back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, asthma--even tennis elbow.

But Sampras and Williams have tried acupuncture in different areas with various degrees of success. While Sampras has refused to further discuss his treatments for his shin, Williams tried everything, from massage therapy to acupuncture when she developed tendinitis in both wrists last fall. She eventually took six months off, and some feared she might have to retire from the sport. In her case, acupuncture didn't appear to have an immediate effect; Williams isn't quite sure why her tendinitis lifted. But she did join Sampras in the winner's circle at Wimbledon's Centre Court.

Robert Duggan of the Traditional Acupuncture Institute in Columbia, Maryland, cautions that acupuncture and those who practice it don't set out to "fix" a specific ailment or disease.

"[An] acupuncture student is reminded repeatedly not to label a patient (nor allow patients to label themselves) with disease words: asthma, arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, or even the expressions that often appear in Oriental medicine, such as 'Rising Liver Fire' or 'Water Causative Factor' or 'stuck chi,'" Duggan wrote in Meridians magazine.

Instead, he urges those involved in acupuncture to remember that the needle is just one part of healing. What practitioners do while using their tools, Duggan says, is to remind their patients of "living fully."

As one who has practiced acupuncture for 25 years, Duggan says he knows "very well how essential the needle and other therapies can be in moving forward the healing process." Still, he fears "that emphasizing the power of these techniques will obscure the fact that they are only one element of a much more complicated process--the awakening of an individual's own healing process."

Perhaps without fully realizing it, that's what Sampras and Williams have done.
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Re: Out Of Bounds - Sampras

May/June 2000

Tale of the Tennis Titans
Agassi and Sampras prepare for Grand Slam showdowns
By Cliff Drysdale

As tennis season reaches full boil, the biggest story in the men's game is the rivalry between Americans Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras. Just as Larry Bird and Magic Johnson dominated the National Basketball Association in the 1980s, Agassi and Sampras make anyone else a distant third. No others have ever struck the ball as well.

The rivalry thrives on contrasts. Agassi, armed with the best return of serve ever, loves attention. He treats matches as crusades and energizes crowds. Sampras, owner of the greatest serve in history, has been so consistently first-rate that he can promptly diffuse any threat--to the point where his excellence is almost taken for granted. Off the court, Agassi is visceral, confessional, eager to interact. Sampras is subdued, private, innately remote.


With two of the sport's four prestigious Grand Slam events pending--the clay-court French Open runs from May 29 to June 11 and Wimbledon, tennis's counterpart to golf's Masters tournament, starts two weeks later on grass--an update of this fascinating rivalry is in order. By winning the French and U.S. Open titles, Agassi finished 1999 ranked number one on the ATP Tour computer. Yet Agassi knew his preeminence was marred by an asterisk: an injury had kept Sampras from squaring off with him at the U.S. Open. Moreover, Sampras had won four of their five matches in 1999, including straight-set victories, in the final of Wimbledon and the season-ending ATP Tour Championships.

The asterisk inspired Agassi to work furiously over the Christmas holidays. As 2000 began, he wanted desperately to eliminate any doubt that he was the world's best player.

All eyes were riveted on January's Australian Open and the Agassi-Sampras semifinal. When Sampras took a lead of two sets to one, I wondered if a defeat would trigger an Agassi tailspin similar to the one he'd experienced when Sampras beat him in the finals of the 1995 U.S. Open. In the two years following that match, Agassi plummeted from number one to 141 in the world.

But after being two points away from losing this year in Australia, Agassi roared back. He showed newfound grit and improved court speed as he has so often over the past year. Two days later, he won his sixth Grand Slam title. Not since Rod Laver won them all in 1969 has a male player equaled Agassi's feat of reaching four straight Grand Slam finals.

As for Sampras, 1999 was the first year since 1992 that he did not finish ranked number one. Sharing the men's record of 12 Grand Slam singles titles, Sampras remains eager to win big tournaments and regain the top spot. But he'll have to get past Agassi to be number one again. Even when Agassi was out of the top 100, Sampras considered Agassi his biggest rival. This New & Improved Agassi is for real.

The catalyst for the resurgence of the Sampras-Agassi rivalry is Agassi's maturity. The old Agassi was vulnerable to pressure. His career path resembled a roller coaster ride. But two years ago, at 28, he realized there weren't going to be many more chances to swing back to the top. He and his trainer, Gil Reyes, embarked on a fitness regimen that improved his mobility and stamina.

While fitness is critical for any athlete, Agassi, a baseliner, needs it more than Sampras, a big server. Agassi's physical strength translates into the single most important factor in tennis: confidence.

And a confident Andre Agassi plays extraordinary tennis. This has been true since he burst onto the scene in 1986. Back then, Ivan Lendl called him "a haircut and a forehand." But Lendl, perhaps smarting over his own lack of charisma, was wrong. Unquestionably, from the get-go Agassi was promoting an image. The hype and the hair seemed purposeful, precisely what you'd expect from a Las Vegas-bred phenom. He's made good on the hype. The hair is gone.

Even as a teenager, Agassi backed up his "Image Is Everything" tagline with wonderful strokes and tournament victories. Now, at 30, he has the finest forehand-backhand combination I've ever seen. Agassi reminds me of Tiger Woods. You simply don't want to walk away when he's playing. Like Tiger, Andre is always compelling and frequently brilliant.

Agassi's hand-eye coordination is unequaled. He sees the ball earlier than anyone and hits it sooner and harder. Imagine a boxer pounding away with these assets and you'll get an idea of Agassi's relentless pressure.

I think he's got two or three more years of top tennis in him. He could win another four Slams, leaving him with 10--ahead of Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe, and just behind such titans as Bjorn Borg, Laver and Sampras.


Sampras is a different animal from Agassi. In the spirit of his heroes, Australians Laver and Ken Rosewall, he lets his racket do the talking. To me, that's a bit of a cop-out. In today's big-money, mass-media world, it would be great for tennis if Sampras were more forthcoming.

Yet as an athlete, Sampras has honored his profession. Unlike Agassi, his ambition is unwavering. No one except Sampras has ever finished the year ranked number one for six consecutive seasons. While Agassi continues to pursue greatness, if Sampras quit today he would still be ranked in the highest echelon.

But Sampras wants to achieve a lot more. He's deceptively driven and tenacious. That's hard to detect because his points are often so short. But if you pay attention to Sampras during a match, you'll see someone who moves like a panther and strikes like a cobra.

He's the most complete player in tennis history. At 14, Sampras abandoned his two-handed backhand for a versatile one-hander. He's comfortable at the baseline and adroit at the net. And his serve--unquestionably the most important shot in the sport--is textbook, a relaxed, fluid motion delivered with power and pinpoint placement.

Losing to Agassi in Australia motivated the daylights out of Sampras. Like Laver, Sampras strikes back powerfully when wounded. His biggest concerns will be his health and getting enough match play under his belt.


So what can we expect from Agassi-Sampras over the coming months? Even though Agassi is the favorite in Paris, he'll face many challenges. Past champions like Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Gustavo Kuerten and Carlos Moya are hungry. Other talents like Marcelo Rios, Cedric Pioline and Alex Corretja must be considered. Yet most threatening to Agassi are the dozens of faceless grinders who can retrieve enough balls to force him into errors. Grubbing through seven matches like this can frustrate even the greatest of players.

Sampras has only once reached the semis in Paris. It's fascinating to watch an attacker like Pete try to think his way through the slow clay. There's no doubt in my mind that Sampras can win in Paris. I believe he should play more European clay events than he has in the past and learn to feel comfortable attacking on his terms rather than get seduced into hanging back at the baseline.

But the truth is that Agassi has a better chance at Wimbledon than Sampras does at the French. Agassi has won Wimbledon once and reached the final last year. If London's weather is hot, the soft grass will play more like a hard court--Agassi's favorite surface.

That said, Sampras is a much greater favorite to win Wimbledon than Agassi is to win in Paris. Sampras is the king of Wimbledon, having won six of the last seven (46 matches won, 1 lost). If his game suffers a 25 percent penalty at the French, at Wimbledon he gains a 25 percent reward. Besides his tremendous serve, Sampras's high-quality ground game constantly challenges opposing servers. Once he breaks serve, you might as well start another set.

While other attackers like Mark Philippoussis, Greg Rusedski, Richard Krajicek, Todd Martin, Tim Henman, Patrick Rafter or Goran Ivanisevic could make an impact at Wimbledon, their injuries and mental shortcomings keep me from betting on any of them to topple Sampras.

So here's how tennis 2000 shakes out: Agassi and Sampras will fight for the top spot all year long like two dogs wrestling for a bone. No matter where these two meet, no matter what the surface, bullets will fly and the tennis will be brilliant. But not until September's U.S. Open will we truly reach high noon.

Cliff Drysdale is a tennis commentator for ESPN and a former pro. Joel Drucker, a Cigar Aficionado contributor, collaborated on this article.
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Re: Out Of Bounds - Sampras

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Jonny Shwab, Sports Columnist

Just the other day, as my column deadline closed in, I realized that I would have the task, the chance, really, to articulate the meaning of sports on a day in which we as a country are called upon to reflect our values and mourn those lost in the terrorist attacks last year.

From the basic standpoint, sports don't exactly go hand-in-hand with the situation. After all, as Mr. Crane pointed out in his column yesterday, the professional sports leagues abruptly cancelled games to pay respect to victims after 9/11.

The unique result of the invention of sports and games is the fact that you can win or lose and then go and play again. You have a real life outside of the game, and no matter how tragic the loss or how glorious the victory, other responsibilities or ties will influence you to move on from the loss or get over the victory.

So why are we talking about this in the same light as Sept. 11?

What happened last weekend in tennis at the U.S. Open in New York was an example of the kind of perseverance that relates sports to America's recovery.

I'm not talking about four Americans filling up final spots of the men's and women's tournaments, or even Pete Sampras or Serena Williams winning for the country in the city that's been through so much in the past year.

I'm referring to the aging veterans, Sampras and Andre Agassi, powering their way to the finals to maintain a rivalry that is more than a decade old.

Sampras, who with his 14 Grand Slam titles is arguably considered the greatest men's tennis player ever, appeared to age in decades rather then years since winning his seventh Wimbledon in 2000. Agassi, recently married to tennis legend Steffi Graf and now a father, has had more recent success but has fallen out of the rankings and had to come back more times than any recent tennis player. To add to the pressure, each time is usually written off as his last rise to the top.

Still, the two made a show out there on American asphalt, drawing the most viewers since Sampras defeated Agassi 12 years ago at the U.S. Open to win his first Grand Slam title.

The two were so emotionally drained from this four-set match, it's no surprise both of them declined the opportunity to compete in the Davis Cup in Paris to give their younger countrymen the chance to play in the team event.

The team captains would certainly not object to them playing, but each felt it was time stop and reflect, something I hope each of you can do today.

The wounds of Sept. 11, of course, cannot be healed in the tennis world, and, for some, the pain will always remain. What I have gotten from sports is a sense of substance to life that former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani said we should all go out and experience to get us back into the flow of things after the mourning.

When you take time out today to remember or just to listen to what others have to say about the events a year ago, set aside your own victories and losses and remember who you are and what you stand for.

For many Americans, part of who they are is highly influenced by someone who was killed or wounded in the terrorist attacks.

Others could look at something in their own identity that would give them definition -- a baseball fan, a student, a teacher or a politician.

In the case of Sampras and Agassi, the two gents renewed a rivalry that had seemed to empty out, gave life to a matchup that seemed to be whittling away as the men moved into their thirties.

Soon Sampras also will be a father and will have something else to liven up, a whole new responsibility outside of sports.

Regardless, the games always will be there, they will just shift to the background when appropriate.

In the end, it often comes to a simple decision that Sampras and Agassi are thankful to have made: sometimes you just have to pick up your racket and play.
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